Name: The Strand
Location: 828 Broadway, Manhattan, NY 10003
Description: The Strand is four floors of book-lover bliss. The main floor entrance, although jam-packed with Strand merchandise, houses a maze of shelves perfect for an intimate browsing experience reminiscent of exploring the stacks in a large library. Classical music plays on every floor, though it is often hard to hear above the chatter of the many customers and tourists that visit daily. A large staircase connects the basement to the second floor, but an elevator is required to get to the 3rd floor, which houses The Strand’s rare book collection. Stepping off the elevator is like stepping into a different store. The spacious room looks more like a museum than a bookshop, and the constant hum of human voices present on the lower levels disappears with the clattering of the elevator door. The classical music, which was so hard to hear on the other floors, creates a satisfying atmosphere for perusing the rare and antique texts. Leather bound books line the shelves and a glass case displaying particularly rare books covers one wall. Next to the counter stands a small vault, which houses some of The Strand’s most valuable books.
What I like: It’s hard to find something not to like about The Strand however, I would say that the main floor does feel a bit commercial on entering and lacks the normal independent bookstore charm. That being said, I love the large selection of books available. The Strand seems to have anything you could ever want to read in any genre, including books in foreign languages, which has become one of my favorite sections to peruse. While the size of the store itself can be a bit overwhelming for browsing purposes,
the clearly labeled sections and picture coordinated maps located near each staircase help customers looking for specific genres, to navigate through the tightly packed shelves. However, The Strand’s large size and tall shelves do provide the perfect environment for those who simply want to wander and get lost among the books. The rare book room on the third floor is the standout feature of this bookstore. The entrance-by-elevator is a nice transition between the bustling floors below and the peaceful quiet of The Strand’s top floor. The rare book room also has chairs for those who wish to sit and enjoy the space and the books within, which is not a feature found on the other floors. With the exception of the checkout counter placed along the back wall of the room, exploring this portion of The Strand feels more like admiring a personal collection in a private library than shopping for books in a bookstore, but with the added perk that if you find something you like, you can purchase it and bring it home at the end of the day.
How they are combating the pressures of the digital age: The Strand is managing the digital age in a couple of interesting ways. Aside from the fact that they have a website and are fairly active on their six social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, YouTube and Pinterest), The Strand seems to have managed to blend books and digital culture in a way that appeals to a variety of audiences. In addition to selling Strand merchandise like t-shirts, tote bags, and mugs, the store sells a variety of other knick-knacks mostly located near the entrance, and at the top of each flight of stairs. In store, they also sell a small collection of vinyl, DVDs, and CDs.
Their website however is definitely tailored to the online shopper. Their main page has a menu bar that is broken down into different shopping categories and allows the reader to virtually browse The Strand’s wares, and purchase books and other items online, including a selection of texts from the rare book room. Another feature of the menu bar is the prominently placed “Staff Picks” link. I was happy to see this on the website, as this was not a feature in the physical store itself. There seemed to be a small staff recommendation shelf hidden on the second floor, but I was unable to find any others. Scroll further down on the main page and you will pass their events section, which consists of a variety of readings and book talks on every subject from Oscar Wilde to “Bad Advice from Bad Women: Riotous Readings from Wild Minds.” Scroll down further and you will find two sections, which are aimed at countering the digital age. The first section is “lower priced than E-books” and the second is called “the book was better.” These two sections are brilliant in terms of encouraging customers to purchase the physical book. The first section demonstrates that E-books are not always cheaper than their print counterparts, while the second section challenges the customers to read the book and decide for themselves whether or not it was better than the film. Finally, The Strand has a couple smaller locations including a Kiosk in Central Park (60th Street and 5th Avenue) and a temporary pop-up shop that just opened in Times Square (44th and Broadway) last Thursday. These small locations are perfect for attracting the attention of passers-by and hopefully encouraging them to purchase a book. The Times Square location will also host a selection of literary events.